Overpopulation is the state whereby the human population rises to an extent exceeding the carrying capacity of the ecological setting. In an overpopulated environment, the numbers of people might be more than the available essential materials for survival such as transport, water, shelter, food or social amenities. This regularly contributes to environmental deterioration, worsening in the quality of life, or even the disintegration of the population.
Due to immigration, the decline in mortality rates, medical breakthroughs, and increased birth rates, populations will always increase and eventually gives rise to overpopulation.
Overpopulation thus contributes to some of the most compelling environmental problems which encompass:
As human population keeps on increasing, exhaustible natural resources such as arable land, coral reefs, fresh water, fossil fuels, and forests continue to drop sharply. This creates competitive demands on the vital life-sustaining resources and contributes to an incredible decline in the quality of life.
The increased loss of the ecosystems including wetlands, wildlife, rainforests, coral reefs, aquatic life forms, and grasslands are highly influenced by overpopulation. For example, rainforests originally covered 14% of the entire earth’s surface. Today, rainforest only cover about 6% of the earth’s surface and scientists’ project it may even become less in the next four decades judged by the current rate of vegetation removal, logging, and deforestation. Besides, due to environmental pollution, 30% of the ocean reefs have been lost because of acidification and global warming since 1980. Also, more than half of the original wetlands have been lost.
The more the number of people, the more the number of vehicles and industries would be. Furthermore, more population tends to increased use of energy sources such as coal and firewood which contributes to increased greenhouse gas emissions.
Hence, because of the accumulation of human generated green house gases and carbon footprint in the atmosphere, the planet has continued to witness amplified global warming and climate change. The effects of climate change and global warming are resulting in extreme hunger, drought, flooding, and loss of habitat.
Overpopulation has caused encroachment into frontier forests and destruction of natural ecosystems that has led to the mass extinction of species. The number of threatened species persists to multiply in number whereas some have completely gone extinct. This is because of human activities such as acidifying water, over exploitation of natural resources, pollution, over fishing, poaching, and destruction of natural systems which are necessary for the survival of different species.
The unrelenting nature of overpopulation on the earth has destroyed most of the world’s fresh systems. Most of the lakes, streams, rivers and ground water making up fresh water have been polluted. According to the global outlook of water resources, these activities influenced by over population have only left less than 1% of the planet’s fresh water readily accessible for human utilization.
Water vulnerability is already affecting many overpopulated nations, especially in some developing countries, as the demands for water tend to be more than the accessible water. Millions of fish species from freshwater ecosystems are on the verge of extinction. Thus, as human inhabitants rise in number, so will the problem of quality freshwater accessibility.
Overpopulation lowers the standards of living since it creates stress on the vital resources for survival and increases the difficulty of accessing the consistent supply of quality food, water, energy, health, security and shelter. Consequently, it makes the poor to become poorer, and they often opt for poor living conditions to survive.
Eventually, it gives rise to lower life expectancy. The situation is serious in developing nations such as southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa where most of the poor populations submit to inadequate and poor diets.
In overpopulated nations, the available jobs are fewer than the overall job seeking population. This contributes to high levels of unemployment. In turn, lack of unemployment leads to elevated crime rates because of theft, drug cartels, and militia groups which are exploited as options for attaining basic resources and necessities such as food, good living standards, and wealth. Violence and conflicts arise when people start competing for the available limited resources.
As population has grown over the years, farming practices have evolved to produce enough food to feed larger numbers of people. However, intensive farming methods also cause damage to local ecosystems and the land, which may pose problems in the future.